Friday, November 30, 2012

Face-Lift 1089

Guess the Plot
Bright Star
1. The heartrending tale of how a starred review in Publishers' Weekly fails to lead to literary fame and fortune.

2. When the body of Mark Sigmond, executive producer of the star-search reality show "Bright Star", is found in a dumpster off Sunset, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things: One, Sigmond didn't cram that machete through his own back, and two, that stupid girl with the fedora better get eliminated from the show this week or he's done with it.

3. Janice’s singing career is soaring; she’s booking gigs in nightclubs across the city. When a past lover returns from afar, will she give it all up for a dream she thought was lost forever? 
4. Sam and Belle Starr’s great granddaughter Midge is smart. She changes the spelling of the family name to “Star”. After Stanford Business School, she works on Wall Street. Finally, she starts an investment bank and thieves her way onto the Forbes 400 list. It’s much better than stealing horses or running a whore house.

5. When her father dies in the crash of the airship Bright Star, 15-year-old Sadira Pascal knows two things: One, she's not going to get the birthday present he was planning to give her, and two, she's now free to hook up with hunky Baruj Haddad, the army private her father insisted was too old for her.

6. Margot makes a wish upon the first bright star she sees, little knowing that's it's actually the planet Arbuthnot. Now the Arbuthnotians have arrived and want her to go back to their planet and be their hero in the forthcoming war with Gorgonia. Why, oh why, didn't she specify the planet Earth when she asked for some excitement in her life?

Original Version
Dear Evil Editor,

I'd like to submit my synopsis of 'Bright Star' for close, humiliating scrutiny. I've chosen to self-publish this book, so my 'query' is more of blurb to hook potential buyers. I'd love some feedback to help me polish the blurb to make it as interesting and exciting as possible.

Sadira Pascal is upset when her father doesn't make it home to celebrate her fifteenth birthday. He might be a busy hovership engineer pulling overtime on a new design, but he's always been home for the important things. Then she discovers her father decided to ride on the maiden voyage of his newest ship, the CAS Bright Star, without even telling her. [Who did tell her?] During Sadira's field trip with her class to observe the hovership launch, things really fall apart. Instead of a successful flight, she watches the Bright Star fall out of the sky. [Is the launch on her birthday? If not, how long has it been since she's seen her father? Do they live in the same home? Is her mother alive?]

The government confirms her father's death, leaving Sadira to pick up the pieces of her former life. [Her former life? Was she reincarnated?] While she struggles with her loss, Private Baruj Haddad tries to convince her that her father and the rest of the Bright Star crew are still alive. [Where did he get that idea?] At first, Sadira doesn't believe there's any hope. But then she stumbles across a message that makes her think her father might be alive. [Sadira Stop Crash was staged. Stop. Don't tell anyone, but I'm alive. Stop. Happy belated birthday. Stop. Love, Dad] As she and Baruj dig deeper into the Bright Star's crash, Sadira uncovers secrets about her father's work, secrets that put her and everyone she loves in danger. [Is this hovercraft a military project? If so, it seems likely that Haddad would take his suspicions to his superiors rather than to Sadira. Privates don't have enough spare time to investigate military aircraft crashes.] [Also, even if Haddad doesn't trust his superiors, if he thinks the entire crew is still alive, why is he approaching a 15-year-old with this theory, rather than a sibling or parent of one of the crew members, someone old enough to do something useful?]

'Bright Star' is a young adult sci-fi/dystopian novel complete at 62,000 words.



You don't need to answer my questions in the blurb. But a blurb that doesn't inspire a lot of questions about the story's logic would be more effective. 

If you could hint at what these secrets are that put everyone in danger, we might be more interested. "Secrets about her father's work" is pretty vague.

A slightly expanded version of the following might be what you're looking for:

On a field trip with her 10th-grade class to observe the launch of the CAS Bright  Star, a military hovercraft her father helped design--and is aboard--Sadira Pascal watches in horror as the ship falls out of the sky.

Struggling with her loss in the weeks that follow, Sadira stumbles across evidence that her father and the rest of the Bright Star's crew might be alive. As she digs into her father's notes, she begins to suspect that the crash was orchestrated by the government, a secret they'll kill to keep from the press and the public.

Is Sadira a proactive character? We see her discover and stumble across and dig and uncover, but now that she suspects the truth and is in danger, does she have a plan? What's her first move? Is her goal to solve the mystery? To rescue her father? To bring down the government?

Of course if you truly want the blurb to be as interesting and exciting as possible, you need to introduce the one foolproof element it currently lacks: sharks.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Face-Lift 1088

Guess the Plot

The Non-Profit

1. The first in-depth guide for aspiring writers that tells it like it really is. Also, soup recipes and a pull-out page of food stamps.

2. Sister Mary Agony experiences a series of doomsday visions involving Jesus, JFK, and a dachshund. But it seems no one will listen to the dire prognostications of... the Nun-Prophet.

3. Mark was supost to be his nashun's spirichal savyur, but he can't even spel--much less profesai. When a nayboring kingdum invads, Mark's peepul ask him to leed ther armees. Will this non-profit manadge to save his peepul from anialashun?

4. In rural Haiti, a group of earnest if surprisingly pale volunteers is eager to start a village school. But why must the classes be held at night? And why are the corpses of local residents starting to turn up in out-of-the-way locales, completely drained of blood?

5. Keisha Holloway loves her new job entering data about children for a nonprofit organization that runs after-school programs--until she discovers that every child she enters into the data system gets kidnapped. Before she can blow the whistle, Keisha is targeted for elimination. Now hundreds of social service workers are after her, willing to kill for the price on her head. Maybe she shoulda taken that job as a law firm receptionist.

6. Jeb Stone likes money. Unfortunately, he's just graduated from college with enormous student loan debt. All his attempts to get a job have failed, so he's forced to take a job at the new local "Non-Profit" food bank. Strangely enough, he's soon making more money than he could ever have imagined. Could there be some magic in those home-made snickerdoodles? And why are all the homeless people wearing designer watches?

7. Jill graduates from Harvard Business School and starts work as a financial analyst at the Peabody Fund – a nonprofit organization. She accidentally finds two sets of books and confides in Jack, another new hire. They snoop and discover the fund launders money for Mafia drug smugglers. But Jack is a made-man. Now there’s no profit in being Jill.

Original Version

Query Letter:

Children’s Holistic Services operates afterschool programs and food closets, but when an evil computer system hijacks their funding, children disappear and Keisha Holloway, secretary to a murdered boss, must flee for her life. [On the one hand, we don't need this paragraph, as it merely summarizes the five paragraphs that follow. On the other hand, this paragraph has way more clarity than the expanded version.]

Keisha Holloway lands the perfect job, secretary for a program that gives back to the community.  Children’s Holistic uses, a government website that provides funding for non-profits and collects data generated by programs nationwide. [That sentence is dullsville. Nothing to do with the writing; any sentence containing the words "government," "data," "programs," and "generated" is a one-way ticket to the rejection pile.]

Keisha enters the student-level data for her program, and in response, the system kidnaps all the children. [Say what? Did we leave out a step or two? What is "the system"? The computer system? She types a kid's name into a database, and the computer system kidnaps the kid? Does the computer system have henchmen who do the dirty work? And whattaya mean, "all" the children? If every child who enrolls in an after-school program gets kidnapped, wouldn't someone notice? What's being done by the authorities?] The computer hacker who seized control of GovernmentGrants is determined to make a difference by forcing social change on organizations hindered by law and ethics. [If the villain is the hacker, why did you call it an "evil" computer system? Does the computer system have its own agenda?] [What exactly is the hacker's goal? If I kidnap all the children who enroll in after-school programs, the government will see the light and . . . do what?]

Darrell Ford, Keisha’s handsome co-worker, scours the ghetto streets for signs of the children.  He encounters residents who saw the missing children secreted into vans in the middle of the night by men in black clothing. [Are they the Men in Black? Because that would be an unexpected but welcome development.]

Keisha’s boss, Dr. Scott, goes looking for the missing children and is never heard from again.  Darrell and Keisha investigate, searching the riverfront where Dr. Scott was last seen. Keisha beats the system by writing a grant application for the return of the missing children, and is targeted by for elimination.


Childrens Holistic Services would like to apply for a government grant in the amount of $75,000. The money will be used to provide lunches for students, supplies for teachers, and to recover the children you kidnapped.] 

Running for her life, Keisha encounters hundreds of social service workers who will kill for the price on her head. [My first thought is, you wouldn't think there'd be hundreds of people who are both willing to commit murder for hire and who also have chosen social work as their career field. My second thought is, if you've been a social worker longer than six months, it would be amazing if you weren't eager to commit murder.] If she can survive long enough, maybe the government can trace the computer hacker. If they can’t, she’s on her own.

THE NON-PROFIT is a 70,000 word thriller.

I have worked as secretary for non-profits all my life, encountering many grant making bodies and government websites. They are not user-friendly. [I feel it's time someone blew the whistle on these corrupt bastards, and that someone may as well be me, as long as I do it in a work of fiction under a pen name, because hey, I don't wanna get murdered tomorrow.]


For starters, let's get rid of "all" the children are being kidnapped, and "hundreds" of social service workers are out to kill Keisha. Those sound like wild exaggerations. Save them for the book. Also, saying the system kidnaps the children isn't advisable. Keisha doesn't know who's kidnapping them, so no need to reveal it to us. It's the mystery she's out to solve.

We don't care about Focus on Keisha. Children are being kidnapped. Keisha is alerted to the common thread in the kidnappings when she realizes she entered all the missing children into the after-school program database. Someone must have hacked into her computer! Keisha investigates, but soon finds that someone thinks she's getting too close to the truth. Fearing for her life, she teams up with hunky Darrell and . . .

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The 4th Serial Killers Guess the Plot Quiz

The following Guess the Plots appeared here during the past year. But not all were fakes. Which one(s) turned out to be the actual plots of minions' novels?

1. A new serial killer leaves a bizarre signature - he hacks out his victims teeth and puts dandelions in the gums. As investigators waste time arguing over whether his nickname should be "dandelion mouth" or "the floral dentist," he manages to kill three more times.

2. Due to prison overcrowding, serial killer Richard Snead is released after three months of incarceration and ordered to keep a log detailing all his activities.

3. After escaping from a serial killer and then getting captured by him again, Lila declares that she's a failure as a human, and when she dies she'll be a . . . Bitter Angel.

4. Someone is leaving death-threat poems on Gina's front door. Is it the serial killer known as . . . "The Rhymester"? Maybe, but Gina hasn't rejected the possibility she has a secret admirer.

5. As Josh Booth camps in the north woods, vampires capture him, binding him to a tree. He escapes and warns authorities but Detective Abby Lincoln says he’s crazy. When bodies--drained of blood--are found bound to other trees in the woods, Lincoln thinks Booth is the serial killer.

6. Hiking in the forest, Ami finds a box of trinkets. Could each of them be a trophy from some killer's thirty-year murder spree? She thinks so. But can she avoid becoming the killer's next victim?

7. When the bodies of four women turn up in different parts of the city, homicide detective Zack Martinez puts it down to football violence. But when a fifth girl is found missing a piece of her scalp, it brings back memories of a chilling serial killer from the beginning of his career. He knows two things: If this is the Genesis killer, then they sent the wrong man to San Quentin; and the Genesis Killer knows where he used to live.

Answer below.

The actual plots are:

3, 4, and 6

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Face-Lift 1087

Guess the Plot

Girl in the Dark

1. She's a girl. She's in the dark. Also, some rats, a baseball bat, and a flashlight with failing batteries.

2. After dying, seventeen-year-old Julie finds herself in a Dark world where she must stop a Darkness in its quest to claim the earth as its own. But can she focus on her task when there's a hunky stranger hanging with her? Did I mention it was Dark?

3. When the severed head of iconic 'scream queen' Devilicious is found stuffed in a cooler inside a burning car, homicide Detective Zack Martinez knows two things: One, she didn't drive herself, and two, that horror film scream-a-thon at the Egyptian won't be the same without her as hostess.

4. Sophia works in Brussels as a high class ‘night escort’. She goes to the most exclusive parties with Europe’s most powerful men. She is privy to many nations’ secrets. Others want those secrets and they are after Sophia. She hides during the day and ventures out only at night. Can Sophia’s ‘friends’ catch the stalkers before she is caught?

5. Shanna is an ordinary teenager, worrying about college acceptance letters and a date for the prom, but when a freak accident unlocks her hidden clairvoyance, her life takes an unexpected turn. Suddenly, Shanna knows things she shouldn’t know, and her idealistic family life is anything but what it seems.

6. Jason, a young Catholic priest in fin-de-siecle New Orleans, sees the Girl in the darkened rectory hallway every night. After a steamy candle-lit bath, Jason discovers a message from the Girl on his fogged mirror. It warns of doomsday -- and asks Jason to help save the world.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Julie's last thought before she closes her eyes is that dying isn't too hard, but dying alone sucks. [Her first thought after she opens her eyes is that sex isn't bad, but sex alone is even better.]

The world looks different on the other side - here, she can see the Darkness, an evil force that thrives on bloodshed. It's out to claim the earth as its own, [Anyone can claim the earth; it's getting earthlings to accept your claim that's the tricky part.] and must be stopped at all costs. The collectors are devoted to doing just that, and see something in Julie worth saving. But her new life comes with a price: she must either succeed as a collector, or die. Again. For real, this time. But even with great gifts - the ability to stop time, a regenerating and ever-young body, and a weapon powerful enough to slice the devil in two - Julie knows she's going to be a big fat fail as a collector. Because Julie knows all about stacked heels. The best spring lip color. How to tell the real Prada from a knock-off. [Knowing those things isn't what's going to cause her to fail. If we must know Julie has great fashion sense, tell us when you introduce her. Otherwise, save it for the book.]

She has no idea how to be a hero. 

[Actually, it's pretty easy. 

1. Stop time. 
2. Take your weapon and slice the bad guys in two. 
3. Go home and restart time.]

Julie's uncoordinated. Unpretty. Not even particularly brave. She might be immortal, but she's no hero. And her mentor, the girl who's supposed to be showing her the ropes, seems like she's more interested in throwing Julie to the wolves. She has Julie wondering[:] if the collectors are supposed to be the good guys, then why do they seem so bad? [In what way do they seem bad?] And then there's the blue-eyed stranger, [Isn't everyone in this place a stranger?] the only kind thing in this new Dark world. Will she live long enough to reveal the secret he carries about Julie's past? [Does that sentence say what you think it says? How can she reveal the secret he carries? To whom would she reveal it?]

Julie's got to get this right. This is her last chance. Last chance at redemption for a seventeen year-old that died alone on some forgotten stretch of road. It's her last chance at something resembling life. Maybe even love. [Love with a blue-eyed stranger.]

She just has to be that girl. That superhero girl.


Girl in the Dark is a YA urban fantasy, 80,000 words.



An occasional non-sentence is fine for effect. But. You have at least ten sentences with no verb. Annoying. Irritating. To me. I start wondering if the whole book is like that. Choppy. Like this. Is there anything wrong with:

Sure, Julie knows all about stacked heels, the best spring lip color, and how to tell the real Prada from a knock-off.

But she has no idea how to be a hero.


She must succeed as a collector, or die--for real this time.

Why are the collectors called the collectors? What do they collect? Should "collectors" be capitalized?

We know very little about the story. Julie dies on a highway, and finds herself being mentored as a collector, someone devoted to stopping some "Darkness" that thrives on bloodshed. And there's a stranger. What little we know is vague. 

The Darkness wants to claim the earth as its own? What does that mean? What specific things has the Darkness done in this attempt to claim the earth? Has it killed three people? Has it caused a World War? Is it a visible entity or just a nebulous idea?

Her mentor seems to be throwing her to the wolves? What did her mentor do? We want specifics about the plot.


The following "Guess the Plots" all appeared during the past year. But three of them turned out to be the actual plots of minions' novels. Can you remember which three?

1. Molly the mole is worried. There were enough predators out there even before all the humans became zombies. Because zombies are slow, they've taken to digging up prey. So Molly is building an army of moles to bash the zombie heads and make Earth safe for mole-kind.

2. Zombie mummy cats chase zombie mummy mice in Tutankhamen's tomb after an earthquake releases a spell from a sealed vase. Plus, a hapless archaeologist.

3. Emma comes home for her ten-year reunion, hoping to reconnect with her best friend, Rose. But she didn't count on Rose being a zombie queen who has turned all Emma's closest relations into flesh-eating undead who want Emma as their next snack.

4. Katie Holloway always signed her love letters to her hockey goalie fiance Malcolm Daley “Forever yours”. The words take on a new meaning when Malcolm dies in a freak Zamboni accident and is buried in the newly opened Eternal Springs cemetery where the residents don’t rest peacefully. Can Malcolm prove his undying love, or will Katie convince him once and for all that “forever” doesn’t mean spending the rest of her days as a zombie bride?

5. When his brother is killed, Ethan seeks revenge by unleashing an army of zombies on the nation's capital while a war between heaven and hell spills over into everyday life. Chaos ensues.

6. An attention-starved, cross-dressing zombie yearns to be human again, but to purge himself of his curse, he must convince the local pastor to let him enter purgatory. Will he agree to give up his tutu and heels?

7. It's the 70's, and the show is so "mod" that it's "groovy." It's...Soul Game! But Charley the Zombie, who could never get anything right, made the mistake of airing it opposite this "hip" new show called Soooooul Train.

8. The zombie apocalypse was supposed to be the stuff of blockbusters. So why does Jeff still need to report to his cubicle by eight to get brains on the table for his family? At least his zombified state makes the drudgery of data entry easier to bear. For him. For the reader, not so much.

9. Since she can remember, Sandra has wanted to be only one thing; a gravedigger. Sandra's parents are already horrified when she lands a dig-gig right after high school instead of going to college, but when she starts bringing her work home with her...

10. A zombie sidles into Tombstone with nary an idear the newspaper misspelled "ghoul" for "girl" in the help wanteds. He gets so upset he upchucks his last meal of brains and cream gravy, which the newspaper terms "White Erp" in its next edition ... and a legend is borned.

11. The hookers on Fremont's Wharf are all long dead. Some of them got their start lifting their hoopskirts for Civil War soldiers. But now some one is murdering them for real.

12. There's a war. People die. There's a plague. More people die. There's a smith and a doctor. They philosophize about life, do business, and die to the ZOMBIE HORDES!!!!!!

13. The residents of Darkmoon City are undead, and they don't want humans encroaching on their homeland. It's a territorial thing. Of course, when the person doing the encroaching is gorgeous, all bets are off. Also, an unemployed drummer.

14. Hitler, Napoleon, and Attila race chariots towards a row of exploding shopping carts where clones of zombie Marilyn Monroe line dance. More things explode. A sensitive monologue about the cost of explosions on the environment ensues. And things explode some more.

15. What's a witch to do when alien plant monsters invade, cats go on strike, and the town council condemns her condo? Create a better love potion with the help of an Egyptian zombie. Also, illicit fertilizer usage.

Answer below.

The actual plots are:

3, 5, and 13

Monday, November 26, 2012


The following Guess the Plots have appeared since the last time we did a Satan quiz a few years ago. Four of them turned out to be the actual plots of minions' novels. Which four?

1. After Adam and Eve screw up, God replaces them with a more self-reliant pair. As Eden is overrun by rodent-spawn, God realizes He's just been conned . . . by Satan.

2. Mort Rimby, ace reporter, agrees to run a newspaper for Satan. But all Hell breaks loose when Mort discovers that Satan's wife Marge is the real power behind the pitchfork -- and Marge has the hots for Mort.

3. Wannabe artist Nigel was never as talented as his brother Simon. In desperation he cuts a deal with Satan, selling his soul in return for the ability to paint with the Devil's own oils. He begins work on a picture he knows will be a masterpiece, not realizing that he is about to unleash Armageddon.

4. First Maya goes to her husband's funeral, but there's no body in the casket. Then her new boyfriend turns out to be a rogue FBI agent hunting her "dead" husband, whose name "just happens" to be an anagram of Evil Satan. It's all par for the course in a town where . . . Nothing is what it seems.

5. Elke has always been unattractive, so when Satan offers to make her beautiful if she'll burn down a nunnery, she agrees. Hey, she's not even Catholic. But when she discovers that her long-lost twin sister is living in the nunnery, will she go through with the deal or try to con Satan into letting her renege?

6. Holy visions appearing in the sky. Miraculous cures. Global warming eliminated. Turns out, Satan's teenage daughter is going through a rebellious phase. But when her good deeds actually earn her a ticket to the Pearly Gates, can she win the cute angel's heart before Heaven changes its mind?

7. Evangeline is banished to hell for something she didn't do, as God screws up for the first time ever. There, she is nominated to become the next Satan. Hey, it's better than working at Starbucks.

8. After her terrible experiences with the first nine grades of sin, Gladys decides she's had enough and converts to atheism. But can she really get off that easy? Not if Satan has anything to say about it.

9. Despite having his own gallery in the best part of Manhattan, Satan's work isn't selling. He hires Jane Dumont to help with this marketing crisis, unaware she is an angel in disguise on a secret mission to inspire him to redeem himself.

10. Angel sees dead people. She thought they were ghosts, but it turns out what she's been seeing are demons, and they force her to choose eternal damnation in Satan's realm or insanity. Are the living conditions better in hell or an asylum?

11. When Hannah first meets her new college roommate, Giselle strikes her as a little odd. Nice enough, but a trifle . . . off. And that's before Hannah notices the horns, the tail, and the smoking cloven hoofprints that Giselle leaves on the carpet.

12. Executed serial killer Ed Parker Hull, awaiting his afterlife fate, finds both Satan and Adramelech vying for his soul. One he's never heard of, the other has a pretty bad reputation. Is it better to sign on with . . . The Devil You Know?

13. Michael wants to be one of the glamorous fashion designers he loves, so when Satan offers him a fashion line of his own in return for his soul, he jumps at the chance. He never thought Satan would stick him with a line of plus-size clothes for a cheap catalog catering to trailer park clientele. Is there any way to cut the thread?

14. When Jason attempts an escape from prison, he is hit by a runaway golf cart. In limbo he meets Satan who offers him a deal; eat seven people who embody the seven deadly sins, or rot with him in hell. Jason’s a vegan. Will he accept the deal or barter for a vegetarian alternative?

15. When Petunia's art teacher vanishes, she discovers he sold his soul to Satan 700 years ago for the ability to paint . . . and now he wants Petunia to trade her soul for his so he can get back to his studio.

Answer below.

The actual plots are:

4, 7, 10, 15

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thankgiving Dinner Needn't be the Same Old Same Old

Make this year's Thanksgiving dinner special.

I posted this recipe a couple years ago, but no one reported back that they had tried it. It sounds like more work than just roasting a turkey, but when you see the results, I think you'll agree it's worth it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Face-Lift 1086

Guess the Plot


1. The magical beings in my book are called wildlings. For instance, Mia Twinblades is a wildling. The book is called Wilding. For instance, Lock your doors while Wilding's wily wildlings are wilding.

2. Chronicles of a weredingo that refused to conform.

3. The multigenerational saga of the Wilding family, whose plucky women struggle to regain control of the fashion empire built by the poor but feisty Emily, and ripped from them by scheming rich girl Adeline. On the way they battle heartaches...oh, you can fill in the blanks.

4. A nation is horrified as a group of young boys, apparently engaged in "wilding," brutally attack a woman jogging in a park. Twenty-some years later, when it turns out that the now-grown-men, all of whom served prison terms, hadn't actually attacked anybody, a nation shrugs.

5. Amish youth have Rumspringa, a time to sample the decadent outside world before committing to Amish life. Were-creatures have the Wilding: two weeks without the Magistrate’s rules, a time to slake blood-lusts (and other lusts). When Rumspringa and Wilding collide in Lancaster County, teen Amanda Hofstetter must decide which lifepath to take: hallowed, heretical, or hairy.

6. Gangs of hooligans have made Gloucester the most dangerous town in the country. And the police are helpless to stop it. Enter ex-Navy SEAL Jake Carter, aka . . . The Vigilante.

Original Version

Dear Agent,

Being a wildling has its advantages: perpetual youth, enhanced strength, and accelerated healing. [They're like that angel guy on Supernatural. Or vampires.] Unfortunately for Mia Twinblades, it also comes with side effects like hallucinations, uncontrollable magic, and incipient madness that may lead to an explosive death.

When Mia stumbles upon a murder and kidnapping in progress, [Or is it one of her hallucinations?] she finds herself caught in a web of political intrigue and slavery. Magically gifted children are disappearing from the streets of Iliana, and demons are being ripped from the Abyss against their will. [By whom?] Forced into a deal with a demonic auditor, she has seven days to stop the abductions or spend eternity in the Abyss. [Why is she the one who has to do this? I don't see perpetual youth, enhanced strength, accelerated healing . . . and uncontrollable magic making her a better candidate than the authorities (or a demonic auditor) to handle this job.] Having a newly orphaned kid underfoot is bad enough, [I take this to mean the kid was the target of the kidnappers and she rescued him? And this somehow forces her into a deal with a demonic auditor?] [Is she supposed to just stop the gifted children abductions or also the demon abductions?] but things really get complicated when another wildling enters the mix. After nearly fifty years of searching, Mia’s elation at finding another one of her kind—and a gorgeous male one at that—quickly fades when she discovers that he is determined to sacrifice the boy she has sworn to protect. [So the boy isn't a wildling?] Will she choose the man she could come dangerously close to loving or the child who has captured her heart? [Or will she find a third option, one that makes everyone happy?]

Set in the fantasy world of Mara where demons operate casinos an [and] aristocrats use magically gifted children as weapons, my novel, Wilding, is complete at 92,000 words and will appeal to fans of Lisa Shearin’s Raine Benares books.

Currently employed as a nuclear chemist in southern Vermont, I’ve done everything from wrestling alligators to modeling. [Needless to say, my modeling career pretty much hit the skids after that last alligator wrestling match.] [On the alphabetical list of occupations that goes: aardvark breeder, actuary, aeronautical engineer, airplane pilot, alligator wrestler, anaconda wrestler, Aquaman, hundreds of other occupations, model, I doubt you've been everything from alligator wrestler to model. However, on the randomly ordered list of occupations that goes . . . cartographer, demonic auditor, alligator wrestler, waitress, cosmetics salesperson, model, falcon trainer . . . okay.] Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.


[Note to EE: Wildlings are a race of nearly extinct magical beings to which Mia Twinblades and the primary antagonist belong.] [So the new wilding is the primary antagonist? I had the impression he was the love interest.]


Presumably you've misspelled the only word in your title?

If the magically gifted children being abducted aren't wildlings, what are they?

Aristocrats are kidnapping magically gifted children and using them as weapons? Against whom? Are the aristocrats also the ones behind the demons being pulled from the abyss? Is that what they need the children for? What is the goal of the aristocrats?

In a world where demons are being ripped from the abyss against their will, I wouldn't expect them to also be running casinos.

Why doesn't the demonic auditor suggest that Mia team up with him instead of telling her she has seven days to fix things on her own or else?

How does Mia know this new guy is a wildling? Can you tell by looking at someone that he/she is a wildling?

The story isn't presented with enough clarity. Talk to us like we're idiots incapable of understanding anything that isn't explained with baby steps.

Friday, November 16, 2012

New Beginning 977

Guido Marionetti sauntered through the Piscataway fish market, searching for inspiration.  He paused at a tray of flounders, their flattened bodies nestled in crushed ice, eyes staring skyward.  The creatures at the fish market often sparked Guido’s sadistic creativity, and Guido wanted something exceptional for his next target.  Killing Big Nose Narducci wasn’t just another job.

Tourists at nearby picnic tables swung wooden mallets, smashing boiled crabs to expose the tender flesh within.  Guido watched for a moment, then moved to a display of octopi.  The boneless tangle of limbs and limp bodies made Guido smile.  He purchased a crab mallet and a bottle of pickled octopus before climbing into his Escalade and hitting the turnpike.

Guido was known for the gifts he sent to his soon-to-be-victims.  Like the two dozen oysters—clearly dead and no good for eating—left on Sal Fiorellli’s front steps in a be-ribboned gift basket.  When Sal went missing, a search of the family yacht found a large cement sphere dangling off the bow, the remains of Sal inside, a pearl necklace twined around his neck.  Nice touch, those pearls. But that was yesterday’s news.

Today's news? An oceanload of vengeful octopi moms threw themselves at Guido's face and suffocated him to death for murdering their children.

Then they cooked a feast of spaghetti bolognaise for all the other distraught seafolk but accidentally became part of their own menu thanks to a miracle of form over substance.

"Hell," said Guido's sister. "Worstest I evah thought of my bro wuz he had zits and yeh once he step on mah hampster but hell fuck him the bitch for messin' with the whole o' mankind ocean kinda thang cos like the trees we depend on them ole tentacle crustacean suckers for all the Lord's oxygen plus the cheat he owe me ten dollar." 

Opening: IMHO.....Continuation: Whirlochre

Monday, November 12, 2012

Face-Lift 1085

Guess the Plot

The Buried Life

1. Zombie mummy cats chase zombie mummy mice in Tutankhamen's tomb after an earthquake releases a spell from a sealed vase. Plus, a hapless archaeologist.

2. A new cereal killer is on the loose, but Detective Martinez lacks the proof he needs to arrest prime suspect Count Chocula. Then he discovers ... the Buried Life.

3. Molly the mole is worried. There were enough predators out there even before all the humans became zombies. Because zombies are slow, they've taken to digging up prey. So Molly is building an army of moles to bash the zombie heads and make Earth safe for mole-kind.

4. Ezra McCabre awakens in a closed coffin. Follow his reflections over the course of several hours as he wonders whether he's the victim of a practical joke or something much worse.

5. It's love at first sight when Republican Veep candidate Mike and Democrat rookie Senator Michael lock eyes across the debate room. But once in office and Michael could be the key swing vote to prevent Mike bombing Lenyaland - home of Michael's beloved Noni - how much can stay buried?

6. When the rich and famous are getting murdered in an underground city, it's up to laundress and amateur sleuth Jane Lin to infiltrate their ranks and expose a killer before the city is ripped apart. Also, a useless police inspector.

7. Wisping out in the ether, the cremated souls of wretches demand retribution for not being buried alive. But what goodly souls exist to resurrect them before wielding the shovel?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

When Inspector Liesl Malone investigates the murder of a historian, the only thing more difficult to unravel than the crime is the red tape. Not that she's surprised; only a few dozen men and women in her city are allowed to study the past. [I don't get the connection between few people being allowed to study the past and Liesl's lack of surprise that there's a lot of red tape. Doesn't it sound like something's missing from this conversation:

Captain: You've caught a murder case.

Liesl: Who's the victim?

Captain: Some historian.

Liesl: Shit. I'm gonna be drowning in red tape.

Captain: Why's that?

Liesl: Because only a few dozen men and women in this city are allowed to study the past.]

[Maybe the opening should be: When one of the few historians in the underground city Recoletta is found murdered, the investigation rightly falls to Inspector Liesl Malone. So she is surprised when the ruling Council immediately throws her off the case. (If that's what happens next.)]

But she is surprised when Recoletta’s ruling Council throws her off the case. When the Council attempts to pacify the city with a military curfew. [I don't think "pacify" is the word you want. It suggests the people are demanding a military curfew and the Council is placating them. You could try "curb" or "suppress" if you can follow up with "protests" or "rebellion." Otherwise I'd just say: When the Council imposes a military curfew.] When the rich and powerful keep dying. [This when, when, when annoys me. How about this:

When one of the few historians in the underground city Recoletta is found murdered, the investigation rightly falls to Inspector Liesl Malone. So she is surprised when the ruling Council immediately throws her off the case and imposes a military curfew.

As more rich and powerful people are murdered, Malone must choose between her duty to obey the Council and her responsibility to catch a killer. (If that's what her choice is.)]

Malone must choose between her duty to obey the Council and her responsibility to catch a murderer. She finds an unlikely ally in Jane Lin, a laundress who stumbles upon the body of a wealthy client. Jane is close to the elites and their secrets, and she’s alarmed enough by the plot she discovers [I knew she discovered a body; she also discovered the plot? Wouldn't it be better if Liesl discovered the plot? So far she hasn't done anything.] to volunteer to be Malone’s conduit to the inner circle. [Now the laundress is going under cover? Is the laundress the main character? I feel like the laundress is James Bond and Liesl is M.] Malone and Jane must stop the killer and unearth the Council’s deadly secrets

[Liesl: We must stop the killer and unearth the Council’s deadly secrets.

The Laundress: Okay, what's our plan?

Liesl: You stop the killer and unearth the Council’s deadly secrets while I monitor the situation.]

before politics and murder rip Recoletta apart.

THE BURIED LIFE is a mystery novel with speculative fiction elements complete at 92,000 words. I am working on a sequel.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Note to Evil Editor: The title refers to the setting (an underground city) and the secret discovery driving the murders (an ancient, buried library). [If the entire book is set underground, a buried library doesn't seem out-of-place. Is it buried under the buried city?] [Out of curiosity, what's on the surface?]


Note that I refer to your character as The Laundress, rather then Jane. I base this decision on such successful titles as The Artist, The Negotiator, The Client, The Rainmaker, and The Lorax. The Laundress will be the title of the movie after the screenwriters remove Liesl from the plot, so you may as well save them the trouble.

Now that we've shortened the first part, you may have room to hint at how this library is driving murders. And to make it sound like Liesl is somewhat useful.

Recoletta sounds like Rigoletto, Verdi's opera about a hunchbacked jester's love affair with a laundress. Coincidence?

Thursday, November 08, 2012


I'm not keeping Kickstarter at the top of the blog to annoy you; it's still there because there's nothing in the query queue and there are no openings waiting for continuations.

For those interested in the project book, I'm having them produced by a company called Blurb. (I recommend them for quality of workmanship if you're ever considering having a photobook made.) I've found their "Bookify" system for creating the book easier to work with than a couple other places I tried.

If you go to their pricing page you'll see that a 100-page 8 x 10 softcover photobook is $36.95, but that volume discounts can get the price down a bit, which is why I'm trying Kickstarter. To see if there's volume demand for what I'm pretty sure is the funniest book ever published. Hey, would I lie to you?

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Face-Lift 1084

Guess the Plot

Angba the Orc

1. All she wants is to find out who she is as she comes of age in this great big world, but it's so hard to get by when your name is Angba Skullcrusher.

2. Banga was the first orc in the Orc Directory until Angba showed up. So Banga changed his name to Agnab. Then an orc named Abang moved into town, and the fighting hasn't stopped since.

3. Ace reporter Sam Finnian has the election story of a lifetime when he stumbles on Mitt Romney's college Dungeons and Dragons nickname and realizes it's an anagram for ABORT CHANGE. But he underestimates the lengths Romney will go to to keep his secret . . . including murder.

4. Angba the orc, raised in dank caverns, schooled by goblins, destined to be a soldier, dreams of life above-ground, far from the constant clanging of trolls' anvils. A computer glitch results in his acceptance to the University of Southern California where, initially shunned, he becomes the star of the football team. Also, lessons in tolerance and acceptance.

5. Angba is drafted by the Orc War Council for their war on the Elvin. But Angba only wants to care for his pet porcupines. Horgal, the chief war monger, orders Angba put to death. Then the great wizard and wereporcupine Pricphella comes to Angba's aid. Together they try to defeat Horgal and end the war before it annoys the porcupine community.

6. As the only orc in fifth grade at her elementary school, Angba is shunned by her fellow students. But when the animals at a nearby zoo escape and overrun the school, it's Angba who fights off gorillas and lions and rhinos.Will her classmates accept her now? They'd better!

Original Version

Here is my Nano query. I would really love input on this, especially regarding finding a title that doesn't sound like a picture book from Mordor.

Dear Evil Master and He Who Must Be Obeyed

A locked box. Letters in an archaic dialect. A silver medallion. When orc Angba Skullcrusher arrives in the desert outpost Fort Galbraith, that's all she has to answer her long-standing question: Who am I really, and why did this man Tallis sponsor my education? [Not clear whether she's arriving at the desert outpost to begin her education or after completing her education.] [About the letters: assuming they're letters from someone to someone, and not letters of the a,b,c variety, who are they from and to? Is dialect the right word, or should it be language?]

When she learns Tallis is dead and has named her as his only heir, her only hope for answering any of her questions lies in the far off orcish city of Grand Oasis. [You suggested that the locked box, letters and medallion might be the key to answering her questions. Were they a dead end? Does she unlock the box?] [Did she inherit the box/letters/medallion from Tallis? I had the impression she had them before she even learned Tallis was dead. If they aren't her inheritance, what did she inherit from Tallis?] [Also, "orcish" sounds like an adjective you'd apply to Sylvester Stallone, while a city or orcs would be "orcan." Then again, what do I know? The only role-playing games in my day were cowboys and Indians and doctor.] To reach it she'll need to brave treacherous Black Canyon, where thousands of dreams have gone to die. [It's the Hollywood of Orcdom.] With the help of orc ranger Sabel Mars and the scholarly orc Silver, she embarks on the journey that will determine how she sees her world--and her heart.

Set in a steampunk world inextricably entwined with legends of the infamous Black Canyon, Angba The Orc is a fantasy romance novel.

Thank you for your consideration.


Is this the Black Canyon on the Colorado River? I think it should be. There's still time to change it. Your plot should be a human family is whitewater rafting in the Black Canyon when suddenly they notice a raft full of orcs gaining on them. The title will be How Our Summer Vacation Was Ruined By Orcs. I see this as a million-selling middle grade book, and if you don't write it, I will.

Nothing seemed steampunkish about the world. If she's going to Grand Oasis in a motorized blimp, say so.

Possible titles: The Secret Life of Orcs, The Language of Orcs, Eat, Pray, Kill, How Angba Skullcrusher Got Her Groove, Orcsteam, Angba Skullcrusher and the Legend of Black Canyon, Orcs Are People Too, Lord of the Rings II: The Orcs' Tell Their Side, Angba Skullcrusher's Big Adventure, Angba Skullcrusher vs. Godzilla.

Friday, November 02, 2012

New Beginning 976

The Briscoe Prison van pulled up to the bus stop at the Shell station off Interstate 35, the West Texas sun hanging just past noon.

Joe Fane and the guard got out, the guard saying, "You got your ticket, your gate money, your parole certificate." He presented a clipboard. "Sign here." Joe signed.

The guard kept up his chatter: "You get to Houston, you check in with your PO. Twenty-four hours, understood?"

Joe understood.

"Else your name goes on the fugitive list."

Traffic rushed by on the interstate. Joe squinted across the desiccated prairie toward Laredo, eighty miles to the southwest. He pictured the bridge there, the border. Cross over, hitchhike to the coast. Sign on with a boat crew and beach himself on a Caribbean island. Charley Shyler would never find him.

"One more thing--don't blow your money on pussy." The guard tossed his clipboard into the van. "You got family there?"

"Not anymore."

"That's not good. What about friends?"

Joe shrugged. "Guess I'll find out.

The bus hove into view, exiting the interstate onto the service road and up an incline. It lumbered onto the shoulder and stopped, brakes exhaling. The passenger door whooshed open. The driver appeared. "Ticket."

Joe handed it up, waiting as the driver rifled through the flimsy sheets, tearing out parts.

"San Antone through to Houston, one way."

Joe boarded the bus.

The guard called after, "Six months, Joe. That's all you gotta do. Don't fuck it up."

The guard sighed in chorus with the closing door. Another one ready to venture out on his own. But he knew the odds were not in Joe's favor.

He waved at the receding bus, unsure whether Fane could see him, or even cared to look. Maybe for the best they didn't get too attached, anyway.

"Go, my friend, run. Be free. Be free."

Barely had the bus trundled back on to the highway ramp, when a giant hawk swooped out of the sky and grabbed the vehicle in its sharp talons.

"Noooo! Not again!" The guard's heart fell. Why was it always so difficult, so risky, to release them back into the wild?

Opening: jcwriter.....Continuation: anon.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Face-Lift 1083

Guess the Plot

Texas Tango

1. Most places in the world it takes two to Tango, but here in Texas -- it takes three.

2. The year: 1870. The city: Death Gulch, Texas, home of the infamous dance duel. Alphonse the Kid has shot 24 men across the Wild West. But is he tough enough to survive the . . . Texas Tango?

3. Released after five years in a Texas prison, Joe Fane just wants to get on with his life. But first he needs transportation, so he car-jacks an SUV, which happens to contain an Uzi and two dozen gold bars. He probably should fence the gold and live like a king, but instead he uses it to frame his hated father-in-law for theft. It's a "priorities" thing.

4. When sultry Latina dancer Muriel Fuego is accused of murdering her manager, crack homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things: the Texas Two-Step is for squares, and he’s got to get some of those jazzy dance shoes with the pointy toes and built-up heels.

5. It's Brokeback Mountain meets Strictly Ballroom when two gunslingers meet their destinies, not to the sound of blazing six-guns on the streets of Laredo, but to the strains of an Argentine tango in the Longbranch Saloon. Also, a transvestite ivory-tickler.

6. There are so many Texans on death row they have to execute them two at a time, which is how the long walk to the execution chamber has come to be called the Texas tango. But when ballroom instructor Melina Kerchenko and her student/lover Bob Lucas are sentenced for murdering Bob's wife, they literally tango to their deaths.

Original Version

Dear E-Squared:

After five years in state prison, Joe Fane returns to Houston to serve a six-month parole. Divorced, broke, and jobless, he moves into a halfway house--hardly the lifestyle he enjoyed as son-in-law to rogue banker Charley Shyler. [Change his name to Charley Shyster.] All Joe wants is to do his time and move on.

Charley himself avoided prison only because Joe took a fall. Now, paranoid that his former protege knows too much, Charley takes Joe on a midnight ride, presenting him with a choice: reaffirm his loyalty by making a contract hit, or else. [Spending five years in prison without talking doesn't show he's loyal, but killing some stranger does?] But Joe is no killer; seizing an unguarded moment, he breaks free, [Breaks free of what?] carjacks an SUV, [Where is this midnight ride, downtown Houston?] and escapes. When he abandons the vehicle, he discovers a loaded Uzi and two dozen gold bars. [Most people abandoning a vehicle they car-jacked wouldn't hang around searching it on the off chance that there are gold bars in the trunk or under the passenger seat.]

Joe is elated, then dubious. Is the gold stolen?--probably. Can he fence it?--not quickly. Without certificates of assay, complications would arise. [My admittedly limited research reveals that certificates of assay are rarely provided or expected, especially not with bars big enough to be worth two million dollars per two dozen.] Word would leak out, Charley would hear. And what about the guy Joe car-jacked? [Maybe he was just delivering the gold bars to someone who ordered them online.] [Possible subplot: a guy's boss tells him to hire an armored truck to transport two dozen gold bars across town. But the guy thinks, Hey, I'll drive them over myself, after work, and pocket the armored truck fee. So he's driving across town in his SUV at midnight with the gold bars in a grocery bag, and as he's eating a Taco Bell Volcano Burrito at a red light, suddenly a guy jumps out of the car next to him and pulls him out of his SUV and takes off. So now he's standing there with beans and sauce all over his shirt, wondering how he's gonna explain to his boss that he lost the gold bars.] [It suddenly occurs to me that this guy's story is far more interesting than Joe's story. Can we make Joe the subplot?]

Instead of peddling the gold, Joe plays on Charley's greed. He enlists Molly Teague--an old flame--to pitch a phony land deal, conning Charley into holding the gold as collateral for a two-million-dollar loan. [If you'll lend me two million dollars to buy a plot of land, I'll let you hold onto these gold bars for which I have no proof of ownership and which I don't want to use to buy the land.] Once the money is wired to an offshore account, Joe and Molly will go their separate ways--

--and Joe will tip the FBI to the illicit treasure sitting in Charley's bank. [If I'm Molly, I'm not going my separate way unless that was my offshore account the money went to.] So long, Charley. [If Charley accepts the gold as collateral on a loan, wouldn't the FBI be more interested in the borrower than the lender?]

It almost works.

TEXAS TANGO is an 82,000-word crime novel. Thank you for your time.

Yours truly,


Is the person Joe is supposed to kill in the car with him and Charley? If not, why does he need to escape? He could just say, Okay, I'll kill whoever, and then disappear.

Does Joe have a gun when he steals the SUV? Because it seems to me the guy driving around with stolen gold bars is more likely to be armed than the guy on parole.

Many of my annoying questions undoubtedly are easily answered. You don't need to answer them in the query, but if you can answer a couple and eliminate whatever inspired a couple, it will seem less preposterous.